The Dirty Dozen [Blu-ray Disc]
From: Warner Home Video
Featuring: Lee Marvin, Telly Savalas, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, and Jim Brown
“Train them! Excite them! Arm them! …Then turn them loose on the Nazis!” That was the tag line of the ad for Robert Aldrich’s The Dirty Dozen, an exciting and classic blend of adventure and action wherein we, the audience, is basically asked to root for arch-typical antiheroes who, since they endure brutal training, bond with each other and target Nazi’s in their mission to take and destroy a château in Brittany where a bunch of senior officers are holed up prior to the D-Day invasion.
It’s a no-hold-barred, risk everything type of actioneer where the group of miscreant U.S. soldiers (a cast of the major tough-guy actors of the area, including former pro-football player Jim Brown) is led by tough-as-nails Major John Reisman (Marvin) against all odds. The trick of the film is that the actors are a mostly likable bunch (save for Savalas, who is thoroughly creepy) and yet they are cast as criminals within the military justice system. Marvin ends up training a team of former murders, rapist, thieves and deserters, and yet, when push comes to shove versus the Nazi’s, it’s the criminals who gain our sympathy and support. There’s a knowing sense of humor that pervades the action but on the whole, there’s a grim sense of duty, honor and ass-kicking.
The Blu-ray disc is unremarkable… that is to say, it’s a nice enough hi-def transfer, but not impressive enough to be considered a disc to showcase a hi-def system. The video resolution is at 1080p with a home theater aspect ratio of 1.78 widescreen. Audio thunders the action home in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround (English/French… Spanish is only offered in mono), but though the dialog sounds crisp enough, the mix is a little disappointing for Blu-ray. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish. Where the video/audio transfers fail to impress (let’s face it the film is an older release and looks and sounds the way it must due to the technology of its time), Warners has gone the extra mile with the bonus features.
Though it’s not a very good film and often borders on parody, The Dirty Dozen: Next Mission is a 1985 sequel with Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Jaeckel reprising their original roles (hope that’s not a spoiler for the original film)… this is the complete sequel in its entirety, and though it lacks the classic pacing, direction and acting of the first film, it’s still a nice touch by Warners for an extended BrD. In addition to the full-length bonus feature there’s also an audio commentary by actors Jim Brown, Trini Lopez, Stuart Cooper and Colin Maitland, as well as producer Kenneth Hyman, original novelist E.M. Nathanson (author of the 1965 novel on which the original film is based), film historian David J. Schow and veteran military advisor to movies (the one and only!) Capt. Dale Dye.
You also get a 30-minute documentary Armed and Deadly: The Making of The Dirty Dozen , which is a very entertaining look behind the scenes and features nice insight into Marvin’s leadership role on the set (having been a combat vet himself) and Aldrich’s direction. There’s a 47-minute documentary on the real-life exploits of 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment called The Filthy Thirteen: Real Stories from Behind the Lines and a few promotional items from the period of the film’s release including Marine Corps Combat Leadership Skills: Vintage Recruitment Documentary Featuring Lee Marvin and a Vintage Featurette Operation Dirty Dozen, last but not least, and not in HD, is the original theatrical trailer. Although not an HD showcase disc, this is a must have for any war film or action buff.